From Asia to Texas


Ancestors of the mammoths entered North America across a land bridge from Asia 1.5 million years ago. Over time, different species of mammoths evolved throughout North America. The woolly mammoth developed inn the colder regions while its cousin, the Columbian mammoth, lived in the southern regions. Adapting to the warmer climate, the Columbian mammoth lacked the dense, long hair of its northern cousin. Other large mammals that lived in the same area as the Columbian mammoth included giant sloths, camels, dire wolves, and saber-tooth cats.

The adult Columbian mammoth stood between 11 and 13 feet high at the shoulder, slightly taller than modern elephants. Males and females had long curved tusks used for defense and foraging. Their broad, flat teeth were especially adapted for grinding the grasses that made up their diet. The Texas prairies made an excellent habitat for mammoths. Like modern elephants, Columbian mammoths had a matriarchal society. Each herd, composed of females and their young, was led by the oldest female. Bulls were normally found near the herd only during breeding seasons.

For unknown reasons, most large North American mammals became extinct about 7500 years ago. Their abundant remains make central Texas a rich resource for the scientific study of Columbian mammoths and other mammals. The importance of the Waco Mammoth Site has attracted international recognition.

A Chronology of the Waco Mammoth Site

Suggested Reading

Proboscidean and Paleoindian Interactions. by John W. Fox, Calvin B. South, and Kenneth T. Wilkins. Published by Baylor University Press.

Mammoths, Mastodons, and Elephants: Biology, Behavior, and the Fossil Records. By Gary Hanes. Published by Cambridge University Press.

For children:

Will's Mammoth: by Rafe Martin. Published by Putnam Press.

Wild and Woolly Mammoths. By Aliki. Published by Crowell.

This information is provided courtesy of the Strecker Museum, Baylor University.

To learn more, visit the Waco Mammoth Site, Baylor University.

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